Registered Nutritional Therapist
Women’s health and Holistic Core Restore® coach
How does the menopause affect the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is made up of layers of muscle that stretch like a hammock from the tailbone at the back, to the pubic bone in front, supporting the bladder, womb and bowel. Pelvic floor muscles help to control the bladder and bowel and contribute to an active sex life. But the effects of the decline in circulating oestrogen, combined with the ageing process, put postmenopausal women at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction. This might include prolapse, sexual dysfunction and incontinence, and their symptoms can greatly affect their quality of life.
One in three women suffer from urinary incontinence
Many women may notice an increased difficulty in controlling their bladder or bowel. Most commonly, this includes symptoms of urinary frequency (constantly needing to go to the toilet) or urgency (needing to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time).
The onset of menopause can cause your pelvic floor muscles – just like the rest of the muscles in your body – to weaken. These muscles support the pelvic organs, which means that the weakening of these muscles can result in pelvic floor problems. Reduced pelvic floor muscle function around the time of menopause can also be due to weight gain, which is common during menopause.
Other contributing factors may include:
- a less elastic bladder
- birth trauma
Nutrition for a healthy pelvic floor
It is essential to eat a healthy diet, rich in dietary fibre, in order to prevent constipation. Constipation puts added stress on the pelvic floor. Getting fibre in your diet is really important for a healthy strain-free bowel movement.
How much fibre do you need to have a day?
The government recommends a daily intake of 30 grams of fibre. But what does that look like on your plate? Breakfast could be half a cup of oats with two tablespoons of flaxseeds and half an apple, which equates to eight grams. Then lunch might be half an avocado, a cup of cooked lentils and a handful of spinach, which is 12.5 grams. Follow this with a dinner of a cup of broccoli and a cup of brown rice, which is 8.5 grams.
Nutritionist Josephine Cobb, who specialises in helping women transitioning through the menopause says: “Hydration is also key when we are thinking about supporting a healthy pelvic floor. Not only for aiding digestive function, but also for maintaining muscle function. The NHS recommends six to eight glasses of water a day. A good tip would be to start your day off with a large glass of water. Hydrating straight away before breakfast can really help to support your digestive system.”
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are king (or queen!)
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are particularly important during this period of a woman’s life and can be very beneficial if done correctly.
Women’s health coach, Rebecca Haroutunian, says: “Pelvic floor exercises are not just about squeezing at the traffic lights. It really is never too late to get a better functioning core and pelvic floor.”